I have always admired vegetarians, but the lifestyle has never been something that I'm willing to commit to full-time. I'm not sure if it's an unwillingness to give up meat or a fear that I will be too limited in what I can eat and cook, or a combination of both. 

Either way, I decided to try going vegetarian for a month, partly to see what the experience would be like and partly to reduce my impact on the environment. Meat production wastes large amounts of water and contributes to pollution, in addition to unethically treating animals in many cases. While my diet change would only make a slight difference to these larger scale issues, I would not personally be contributing to them. Thirty days later, here are my results.

Week One

Julia Gilman

I did some research and discovered that two of the most important nutrients found in meat are iron and protein. In order to try and keep my diet as normal as possible, I looked up vegetarian foods that contained these nutrients so I could try and cook with those foods. While grocery shopping, I bought foods such as beans, spinach, cereal, peanut butter, tofu and whole grains to make sure I was getting enough iron and protein.

By the end of the week, I felt pretty normal—I had fun cooking and experimenting and didn't miss eating meat. My go-to breakfast or snack became spinach smoothies, as I could incorporate bananas, spinach and peanut butter to get a good dose of nutrients.

Week Two

Minerva Ho

Prior to going vegetarian, I had never been able to eat more than a couple pieces of tofu. After my first week or so of vegetarianism, I felt like my dishes were missing something, so I decided to try and include it in my meals.

A quick Google search taught me that tofu needs to be drained before cooking it, and it turns out that following that process and seasoning it with spices and sauces resulted in a great flavor. I often sautéed tofu with teriyaki sauce to include in stir fry, or cooked it with taco seasoning to make tacos or burritos. I barely noticed that I wasn't eating meat in these dishes.

Week Three

Parker Kerth

As the third week progressed, it didn't feel like I was making a significant lifestyle change anymore. I grew used to not buying or eating meat, and I wasn't experiencing any cravings. While eating out, menus didn't always provide a ton of vegetarian options, but I was always able to find something to order.

Another one of my go-to meals became toasted pitas. I adapted this recipe from a meal my roommate had made earlier in the year. All I had to do was preheat the oven to 375 degrees, layer spinach, tomatoes, olives, cheese and some seasoning on top of a pita, and cook the pitas for around 10 minutes. They were easy to make, tasted great, and I was getting my essential nutrients from the whole-grain pita and the spinach.

Week Four

apple, peach, vegetable
Cherie Mak

As I realized that my vegetarian period was almost over, I didn't feel like I needed to stop after the four-week mark. I noticed that I was eating healthier and buying more produce while grocery shopping, and I felt better energy-wise. I was also paying more attention to which foods provided which nutrients, and I felt more conscientious as to what I was putting in my body.

Although I broke my vegetarianism while home for the holidays, even after ending my trial run, I've still been cutting back on meat. I haven't been buying meat at the grocery store, and despite occasionally ordering a burger or a side of bacon while eating out, I've discovered that I can cook mostly vegetarian while not feeling like I'm missing anything.

Overall, I can't see myself becoming a full-time vegetarian, but it was much easier to cut meat out of my diet than I thought possible. Going vegetarian helped give me more variety in my diet, making me eat healthier and put more thought and effort into the food I prepare. If you're considering giving vegetarianism a try, go for it—the result may be more rewarding than you think, and even being vegetarian a couple days a week can make a positive difference.